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Regulation

House Google Hearing Confirms Bipartisanship on Internet Platform Issues

Government scrutiny of Internet platform unaccountability is here to stay because it is a strong bipartisan concern and interest.   

Yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices” featured Google CEO Sundar Pichai as the lone witness.

The hearing provided a ~30 congressperson data-set and proxy for where Google specifically, and Internet platforms generally, stand politically at this point in the techlash gauntlet.   

The Bipartisan Politics for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability

In this post-mid-term election sea of partisanship, expect a political safe harbor for bipartisanship in the next Congress to protect consumers and level the playing field, by bringing more accountability and transparency to the Internet’s unchecked, winner-take-all, biased-brokers, of online supply and demand: Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

This is timely and relevant because conventional wisdom appears to dismiss bipartisanship in this area as a phase and not lasting to conclude that no Internet-related legislation passes next Congress.

This analysis considers the political reasons why a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House could cooperate and pass bipartisan legislation that brings much more accountability and transparency to the unaccountable Internet triad of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The Reasons Efforts for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability Will Remain Bipartisan 

First, there are evident high-level lasting concerns from both the right and left about the Internet triad’s unaccountable power.

Why New U.S. Privacy Data Protection Law Will Preempt State Privacy Laws

Just like there is a strong inevitability case that it is a matter of when and not if U.S. online privacy/data protection legislation will pass, there is also a compelling common-sense case why U.S. Federal privacy and data protection legislation should and will effectively preempt or supersede state Internet-related privacy laws.   

California’s June passage of an EU “GDPR-light” privacy bill, has teed up the reality that states can and will fill the vacuum left by Congress’ long inaction in addressing consumer privacy protection in the 21st century – until Congress legislates.  

The fact that California is taking the lead in filling a Federal vacuum, does not mean that pending state Internet-related privacy laws will survive or be determinative long term when Congress ultimately fills the gaping vacuum.

What Most Stunts FTC Antitrust and Consumer Protection Law and Enforcement?

As the FTC prepares for their public hearings on “competition and consumer protection in the 21st century” this fall, it would be reasonable and instructive for the FTC to seek to better understand the root cause of the need for these once-in-a-generation FTC hearings and to confront some of the most evident serious effects of this root cause problem.

First this analysis asks and answers “what most stunts the FTC’s antitrust and consumer protection law enforcement mission?

Second it asks a dozen of the most important questions the FTC should be asking to zero in on what problems are evidently happening with competition and consumer protection in the marketplace that the FTC’s mission and efforts evidently have been unable to deter, address or resolve since the Pitofsky hearings in 1995.

Facebook Fiasco Is Exactly What US Internet Law Incents Protects & Produces

One gets what one rewards and tolerates.

U.S. Internet law and policy, which exempts and immunizes Internet platforms from most normal social responsibility and government accountability, has created a de facto anti-social contract with the American people; a cheaters charter for Internet platforms; and an increasingly corrosive culture of unaccountability.

Inputs drive outputs. Favoring unaccountability, favors irresponsibility.

This latest Facebook fiasco is just the latest in a long series of Internet-unaccountability wake-up calls for Congress.

The problem here is not tech, technology, the Internet, or a business model. They are mere tools that can be used for good or for bad.

The problem here is Congress predicated 1996 U.S. Internet law and policy on the implicit utopian ideal and naïve presumption that Internet technologies and businesses would only be forces for social good and not harm.

Congress Learns Sect 230 Is Linchpin of Internet Platform Unaccountability

U.S. Internet policy politics has shifted.

Congress has learned that any new legal accountability for, or regulation of, Internet platforms likely won’t survive court challenge, unless the new legislation also amends a 1996 law, Section 230, that selectively immunizes Internet platforms from most government legal accountability, and federal and state regulation.

Courts have interpreted Section 230 so broadly that Internet platforms like Facebook, Alphabet-Google, Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, grew confident that they could operate their businesses largely above the rules and outside the law that applied to everyone else.

The proof of this "Jekyll and Hyde" legal double standard, is that this week Congress had to amend section 230 to narrowly override its sweeping Internet platform immunity powers to legally enable child victims of sex trafficking to seek redress for their harms in court.

Yesterday the Senate passed FOSTA, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” with 97% support (97-2). Three weeks ago, the House passed it with 94% support, (388-25). Both passed over the strong opposition of Alphabet-Google and some other members of the Internet Association. President Trump is expected to quickly sign it into law.

US Internet Policy’s Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability - DOJ Filing

Note: this post summarizes a Precursor LLC presentation filing for the record of the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division’s 3-14-18 Roundtable on Antitrust Exemptions & Immunities. See the presentation/filing here.

Presentation Title:

“A Market Divided: U.S. Internet Policy Creates Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability.”
Government exemptions and immunities overwhelmingly favor regulatory arbitrage over free market competition. Accountability arbitrage harms: consumer welfare; free market forces; the process of competition; and economic growth.

Executive Summary:

Unregulated Google Facebook Amazon Want Their Competitors Utility Regulated

Americans believe in equal accountability, that no one should be above rules or outside the law.

Then why are America’s only unaccountable network monopolies, Alphabet-Google, Facebook, and Amazon, calling for maximal accountability of utility-grade, network-neutrality regulation for their ISP competitors, but no accountability for their own apparent utility-like, monopoly distribution networks?

Online-Offline Asymmetric Regulation Is Winner-Take-All Government Policy

Online-offline asymmetric regulation is the biggest persistent competition problem in the economy for the next decade. 

Asymmetric commercial treatment by the Government predictably produces asymmetric market outcomes. Everyone knows how an unfair playing field or unfair rules of the game produce favored winners and disfavored losers.

Internet myth is that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and their “intermedia” Internet Association brethren deserve to be winner-take-all because they are more innovative and better for consumers than offline companies.

The reality is that these companies common “winner-take-all special sauce” is old-fashioned regulatory arbitrage, of its special Section 230 intermediary immunity from liability, regulation, and accountability.

To date, the intermedia’s decade-long, bankrolling and public leadership of the Title II net neutrality regulation of broadband effort, has been a spectacularly effective diversion of public and government attention from the intermedia’s regulatory arbitrage of their winner-take-all, asymmetric regulation advantages.

NetCompetition Statement on Election, Communications Law/Policy & FCC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 9, 2016, Contact:  Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

 

Election Provides Opportunity to Modernize Communications and Privacy Laws; And to Ensure a Pro-competition FCC that Fully Respects the Rule of Law, Facts, Due Process, Property Rights and Contracts

 

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths